Dual Link Drive Kit, by ADS
Posted: 12-Nov-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: ADS Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Overview
Have you ever noticed how much cheaper an internal hard drive is compared to an external hard drive? In most cases, you are paying that price difference strictly for the case and firewire/USB bridge, because the drive inside the case is no different than an internal drive you may purchase to install into your Mac. Also, you will notice that several online vendors, such as TigerDirect.com, as well as several retailers, such as Fry's Electronics, often have sales on internal OEM parallel ATA (PATA) hard drives - the kind of sales that are really hard to pass up. How about a 400GB hard drive for $100? You may have an older Mac that doesn't support that size of a drive, or maybe all of your hard drive slots are filled up. Or, if you're lucky enough to have one of the newer G5's, then your your Mac only takes a serial ATA (SATA) drive, and you won't find "killer sales" events on these SATA drives as often (not yet anyway).

The best solution for all of those situations is to purchase an IDE drive and purchase an external case, and simply install the drive into the case to use as an external drive. In the past, external cases were costly, and usually pretty ugly looking. However, times are changing, and one indication of that is the
Dual Link Drive Kit offered by ADS Technologies. The Dual Link is an external case for an IDE hard drive, and includes two firewire ports, a USB 2.0 port, a standard AC power port, and an on/off switch. The Dual Link sells for $69.99. So for a 400GB IDE drive on sale for $100, the combination of the Dual Link and the hard drive would give you a 400GB external Firewire/USB 2.0 drive for $170.

Drive Kit Features

  • Add Multi-Gig Storage To Your PC or MAC
  • Instantly Enhance almost any IDE Hard Drive; ATA-100, ATA-133, or ATA -6 Drive
  • Convert your DVD, or CD Drive to FireWire or USB 2.0
  • Supports All Hard Drives Of Any Size
  • Convert Your Internal Hard Drive to USB 2.0 or FireWire
  • Super Fast & Reliable external storage
  • Make your DVD-Recordable Drive Portable
  • Intech's SPEEDTOOLS UTILITIES for MAC OS 9.X and OS X
  • Plug in the drive & it mounts automatically. Adding a drive is fast & easy!
  • Hot Swappable - Real Plug & Play for your External Drives
  • Includes Pop-Out front bezel to cover a hard drive, or remove for CD Drive installation
  • Supports sustained data transfer rates up to 35 MB/Sec.
  • Power Supply - Supplies both 5 Volt and 12 Volts to your drive.
  • Silent Ball bearing fan to keep your drive cool and running smooth.
  • Micro-Slot security protection.  Keep your drive from walking away.
  • Compatible with Anchor Pad and Kensington Micro-Slot Locks.
  • Lighted rear power toggle switch
  • Hard Drive activity light


 FireWire features

  • Converts drives to External FireWire Drive; Support for IDE Hard  drives (UDMA 33/66 or  ATA100/133), CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, or DVD-R/DVD+RW
  • Stackable and Daisy-Chainable
  • Provides (2) Two 400 Mbits/sec ports 
  • Connect one port to Host computer
  • Use second port for daisy chain to a second drive, your Digital Camcorder, Scanner or PYRO Web Cam


USB 2.0 features

  •  Converts drives to External USB 2.0 Drive
  •  Support for IDE Hard drives (UDMA 33/66 or ATA-100/133), CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, or DVD-R/DVD+RW
  •  Provides (1) 480 Mbits/sec port


Includes

  •  Dual - Link Drive Kit Enclosure
  •  6' USB 2.0 cable
  •  6' FireWire cable
  •  Flat ribbon cable (ATA-100)
  •  Screw kit for installing hard drive
  •  Removable bezel cover for hard drive installations
  •  Power cable
  •  CD Includes: Drivers, SpeedTools Utilities for Mac from INTECH Software


Installation
The caveat to buying an external case is that you will have to be installing the hard drive into it yourself. I did the installation and removal process on the Dual Link several times, as a means to test it out, as well as using it to test different sized drives. There are a number of small screws that must be dealt with, so if you have big fingers, you may find some challenge in that. However, for the most part, it was very easy and very straightforward.


The Dual Link drive kit - unassembled

There are a few components to be dealt with: The metal case where the drive is installed (where the bridge/power circuitry resides), a metal plate that covers the case, the slip-on plastic case cover, and the front plastic cover. When you first receive the Dual Link, you need to slip off the case cover, unscrew the 4 screws holding the front cover on, and then lift off the metal case cover. Connect the IDE drive of your choice to the power and IDE cables in the case, and then attach the drive to the case with 4 provided screws. All the screws are small, but the drive screws are just a little bit bigger than the case screws. Note also that all the screws are mixed together in a plastic bag. The smaller screws may seem to work, but they will not securely fasten to the drive, so be sure to use the bigger screws.

Once the drive is connected, it's a piece of cake to re-assemble the case. Connect the LED cable from the circuitry to the front cover, fasten the metal cover to the case with 4 case screws, attach the front cover to the case with another 4 case screws, and then slide the black case cover up to the front cover and fasten it in the back with the 2 longer screws. From there, it was just a matter of connecting the power cable, connecting the firewire cable (alternately, you could use a USB 2.0 connection), and then flipping the switch on.

I not only found the installation process simple, but I experienced what I call "tinker" satisfaction. As a child, I always loved toys where you build things, like Lincoln Logs and Legos. Putting together my own external hard drive was much like that, but not so overwhelming as putting together a computer (I generally stress when working on the inside of a computer in fear of "destroying" something). The best part is, after tinkering with the assembly kit, you have the immediate satisfaction of hooking up the drive you just built, and watching the drive show up on your desktop. Very cool.

In Use
Once you have a drive installed in your Dual Link, it behaves just like any other Firewire/USB external drive. You can choose to use the USB or Firewire port to perform data transfer. My G4 does not have USB 2.0, so I opted for the Firewire connection. Thanks to the two firewire ports, I was able to daisy-chain the drive into my current firewire chain (I have two other external firewire drives). One thing that the Dual Link has over my other two firewire drives is that it uses a standard power cable for connecting to power. Both of my other drives have bulky power adapters that add to my power cord clutter, but the Dual Link has the power adapter built-in, so any standard power cable will connect the drive. The Dual Link also has an on/off switch so that you can flip a switch to turn off the drive (versus having to remove the power cord).

Unlike external cases that I've seen on the market in the past, plain and ugly, the Dual Link has a very sleek design. The internal case is a very plain metal case, but it comes with an outer sleeve and front cover that really spruce up the look as well as absorbing sound and making the drive easier to carry. The main sleeve is black with two rubber grips on the rear sides. The front cover, complete with drive I/O LED, is silver. The Dual Link's overall appearance is very nice.


The Dual Link in operation

Careful attention was made to provide everything you need, including a variety of screws, power cord, firewire cable, and a USB cable. Not even printers come with USB cables anymore! If you're going to use your drive as a firewire drive, you can use the USB cable to hook up your USB printer. I was very impressed with all the items that came with the Dual Link package. When you make a purchase, it's nice to have everything you need to make the device work.

The Dual Link has a small fan, and about an inch of space between the drive and the top of the case. Because the internal drive is connected to the bottom of the case, most of the heat is diverted to the metal on the bottom of the case. The Dual Link sits on 4 rubber feet, so it's not transferring that heat to anything else. The design of the case made for excellent handling of heat. I also found that the drive runs very quiet. During a copy of 7GB of files to the Dual Link, I had to literally press my ear up against the drive to hear the disk writing. The case does a good job of absorbing sound.

During my different tests, I installed several different drives into the Dual Link: a 60GB Maxtor drive, a 250GB Maxtor drive, and a 400GB Seagate drive. In all testing, the drive performed reliably with consistent and speedy file transfers. For a copy of 5GB of data from my internal drive to the Dual Link, the copy completed in 3 minutes. A copy of 5GB from the Dual Link to my internal drive took 5 minutes. There is optional software that comes with the Dual Link, Intech SpeedTools, which can be used to alter the throughput to a drive, so you could conceivably bump the speed up. From my past experience with firewire devices, however, I have found that going for speed tends to compromise stability, so I shy away from that. On the other hand, Mac OS X may handle it better these days than it did four years ago.

It was difficult to find any fault with the Dual Link. In fact, during my very first run with the drive, I completed the installation and initial testing, and thought the drive was perfect. I was downright excited about it. Up until the point when I shutdown my Mac, that is. Lo and behold, there was one thing that the Dual Link doesn't do that my other firewire drives do: it doesn't power down when my Mac shuts down. The power bridge on the Dual Link is not Mac savvy, which was a disappointment, especially given how close I was to giving the drive kit a 5-star rating. In a server room, this is a non-issue, but for most home uses, people want their connected devices to power off when their Mac shuts down. Granted, I can use the on/off switch to shutoff the Dual Link, but I don't want to have to remember to do that at every shutdown. Once the internal drive spins down (which it does do after a shutdown), there's only the fan that's actually still powered, so you could conceivably just leave it on. However, energy conscious owners, as well as those who keep their computers in their bedrooms, will want the Dual Link to be shutoff. Given that most external firewire drives power off automatically when a Mac shuts down, it's apparent that the technology is out there. ADS can, and should, incorporate this into the Dual Link kit.


Summary
The ADS Dual Link drive kit is a stylish external hard drive case that sports two firewire ports and a USB 2.0 port. The Dual Link allows you to purchase an inexpensive IDE drive and convert it easily into a valuable external firewire or USB 2.0 drive. I installed IDE drives ranging from 60GB up to 400GB into the kit, and experienced great performance. The drive has an excellent case design for handling drive heat and suppressing drive noise, and the sleek black and silver outer casing with the rubber grips is a far cry better than external cases of old. Data transfers over firewire were fast and consistent. It comes with everything you need, including the firewire and USB cables. The only fault I found in the kit is that it does not have a Mac savvy power bridge (aka, the Dual Link does not power off when your Mac shuts down). If you are looking to add a large external drive to your Mac, but don't want to pay the large price tag on an external hard drive, the Dual Link is the way to go. With the Dual Link, you can snag the next "killer" deal on an IDE hard drive and build yourself your own external drive for half the price that external drive would normally cost. I highly recommend the Dual Link drive kit.


Pros

  • Inexpensive way to obtain a large external hard drive
  • Easy and fun to assemble
  • Built-in power adapter, 2 firewire ports, and 1 USB 2.0 port
  • Stylish design, includes on/off switch
  • Quiet, reliable and consistent operation

Cons

  • Power bridge is not Mac savvy
  • Needs better instructions on which screws to use for what
  • Big fingers may struggle with the small screws


Overall Rating:

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice